Joyce Ahodia

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The place was easy to find; a sharp left turn from the main road and there I was. A not-so-dilapidated but a not-quite-new building stood in front- the ECI Happy Home. I had a bagful of old clothes for the children living in this orphanage. On ringing the bell, I was greeted by two happy looking boys who gleefully offered to carry my bag upstairs. While climbing the stairs, I saw curious-looking faces peeping through curtain-clad doors- infants, toddlers, tweens to late-teeners,  a wonderful sight indeed. There was smell of Indian curry, noise of kids playing in the backyard, and a feel so aesthetic that it stirred all my five senses. I was welcomed by Joyce and David, the couple who had become parents for the 60 kids in this happy home. A 45-day old baby was in Joyce’s arms. She was lovingly caressing her- “Lumina, see who has come”. There were a few more 3 to 5 year olds- Lizzie, Chilli and Angel, all clinging to Joyce’s ‘dupatta’.  When I spoke to Joyce over coffee and homemade cookies, I knew I had to write about this incredible woman and the mother of 60 children.

Joyce was born in Nizamabad. Her early life was no different from that of the middle class girls in our country. She finished education from Saint Judes and went to Usmania University to complete her post graduation. Her marriage was settled with David whose vision was to serve the poor in North India. He believed in simple living and was not sure if Joyce would want to share his vision. But today, after 13 years of marriage, Joyce has proven that her vision, commitment and dedication to the greater cause, is immovable.

Joyce was married in the year 2000 at an early age of 23. Along with her husband, she started serving the poor in a church at Turkapalli village, near Hyderabad. But with all the power politics that was slowly creeping in, Joyce found it difficult to continue her work. She resigned and started teaching in a secular school. In January 2002, she was blessed with her first son. She and David were now serving 75 orphaned children in Secunderabad. But David was not content. He always questioned – “What about the vision we had seen together, Joyce?” Moving to north India was not an option as Joyce had financial commitments towards her family.

In 2003, David attended a seminar at a school in Jubilee Hills, Hyderabad. Before leaving, the school authorities gave him a gift, which he carefully kept inside his Bible. Joyce had been fasting for a week. Each day she pleaded to God to show her the right path. One evening over coffee, when Joyce opened the gift the school authorities had given David, she was surprised to find Rs 8000. She knew what God’s will was. They had to move towards the vision they had seen together.

Joyce moved to The Calcutta Bible Seminary at Madhaymgram, Kolkata along with David. Life was difficult; she found the place dirty, crowded and drab, and to top it up, she hardly understood the language. She missed her home, her parents and the familiar faces that she interacted with every day. She started teaching in the seminary and slowly got used to the life in Kolkata. One day, the director of the Seminary asked if she wants to work for ECI happy home. One of the sponsors of the seminary J.L. Williams was sure that Joyce and David would be the best people to work for the home.

Joyce started with 21 children. She did all the cooking and cleaning herself and like any dutiful mother, she gave the best to her children. Soon she was blessed with second son but that didn’t deter her compassion. She managed sibling rivalry with poise and determination.

It has been nine years. Joyce never leaves her children alone even for a minute. She celebrates each time her kids excel in school or receive an award. They celebrate festivals and pray together. I was surprised to know that David and Joyce have never taken a vacation till date. Joyce has trained her 2 boys so that they support her to fulfill her vision.

At last I asked Joyce the ‘beauty pageant’ question about her future plans. She had an answer even before I could blink- “By 2020, I want this home to have 500 girls and 500 boys. I want a bigger place with more open space where my kids can breathe, play and grow. I want my sons to do similar work in Bangladesh or some part of our own country.”  I hugged Joyce and said goodbye. I salute this woman for her incredible spirit.

 

Article by: Sulakshana Chatterjee

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